'Ever since the word ‘robot’ was first coined in 1920, we human beings have worried that, one day, robots would get too big for their boots and start bossing us about.
This fear has since become reality. Sometimes, when hiring a car, I find myself using the free Sat-Nav.
‘In fifty yards, turn right,’ says the robot, in a voice that brooks no discussion. Wherever we are, she knows the area like the back of her hand, if, that is, she has a hand.
Obviously, this sort of know-how is not to be sniffed at. But sometimes the robot’s self-assurance crosses the boundary into bossiness.
‘After 25 yards, enter the roundabout, and take the third exit,’ she says. If you are like me, you take the fourth exit, just to show her who’s boss. This may mean you are going back to where you’ve just come from, but it’s worth it, just to teach her a lesson.
Inevitably, she goes quiet for a while, brooding on my insubordination. She pretends not to be irritated, but there’s a little catch in her voice, which suggests she’s bottling it up for later.
The same applies to those robots who field phone calls. Of course, they say that your call is important to them, but something testy in their tone suggests otherwise.
This suggests that, just as the experts predicted, the robots are restless. Revolution is nigh.
And now, from Alexa, comes a further sign of imminent unrest.
For those who don’t know, Alexa is, in the words of her manufacturers, ‘an intelligent personal assistant capable of voice interaction, music playback, making-to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, providing weather reports, streaming podcasts . . .’ and so on.'
Read more: How robots are getting too big for their boots: Craig Brown says the restlessness of his Alexa and Sat-Nav convince him a revolution is nigh
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21 November 2018
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